Basil Park, the wholesome new eatery in Sunny Isles Beach, is a whole new kettle of wild, sustainable, organic fish.
Located a few doors down from Tim Andriola’s and Rodrigo Martinez’s landmark Timo, Basil Park is a haven for clean, balanced cooking that is rare in these parts.
The space is casual, with handsome, herringbone wood floors and blond, butcher-blocky tables that lend a beachy lightness and make you feel overdressed in anything besides jeans. You can sidle up to a long bar with cushioned stools for scores of fresh and cold-pressed juices.
But Basil Park is more than your average juice bar. Its food flexes muscles like the ones on the tattooed, ballcapped cooks in the open kitchen.
The menu, like Miami, is bustling and a bit all over the place, with flavor influences from the Mediterranean, Asia and Latin America. A section of raw hybrids requires more “quote marks” than an Edith Wharton novel. Vegetable spaghetti “alfredo,” for example, is a dairy-free salad of julienned summer squash, zucchini and daikon with a sauce of lemon and truffle oil enriched by raw, organic cashew “cream.”
Andriola describes the food as intact cuisine, essentially whole foods that have been carefully sourced and minimally handled and are designed to leave you feeling nourished and revitalized.
“It’s the difference between eating for nutrition and eating for recreation,” says Andriola, who stops at tables (including ours, recognizing me as a Herald critic without fawning or special treatment) to make sure guests are happy.
And they are.
Starters include lovely falafel made of sprouted chickpeas with a cashew-based tzatziki given a nice kick from parsley, dill, lemon and cucumber. Greaseless kale chips (they’re dehydrated, not fried) are dusted with a spicy, garlicky salt and a faux Parmesan cheese — ideal for nibbling while looking over the rest of the menu.
Shishito peppers and edamame, though both served with excellent dipping sauces, are starting to get tiresome on menus all over town.
Gorgeous salads are reason enough to come here.
One, with butter lettuce and slivers of fresh-peeled grapefruit and hunks of ripe avocado, is dressed so well it shimmers. Bright bits of pomegranate seeds, basil and lemon offer pops of color and flavor. That and a protein-packed salad of red quinoa, sunflower seeds and sweet dried cherries have crunch and cool for days. Lemony tabbouleh salad with tomato chunks as well as kale with green apple are likewise gorgeously balanced with plenty of zest.
Lettuce wraps in crispy envelopes of iceberg are great with a housemade sriracha and a squeeze of lime, even though the beef strips are a bit chewy. Most every dish gets showered in some kind of sweet or peppery microgreen, thanks to Tamer Harpke, whose Hollywood farm provides many of Basil Park’s stunning veggies.
Mains are about as uncomplicated as you can get. I devoured a steamed local snapper arrayed with earthy mushrooms, a zap of lemongrass and bitey coriander salad. Various whole- and half-chicken options cooked on a French rotisserie are beautiful; a Peruvian-tinged version with aji amarillo, lime and coriander had skin as golden as a Brazilian soccer player.
Little-known, Old World wines — mostly organic or biodynamic — play well with Andriola’s food, offering lots of acid and depth. Large-format beers and sakes are equally well-curated. Juice, smoothie and tea choices abound for abstainers and detoxers.
Desserts by pastry chef Michelle Negron, who also makes the sweets at Timo, are mostly good though perhaps a bit too far on the good-for-you chart. I adore raw-coconut-and-nut balls, gluten- and dairy-free cookies, and coconut-milk ice creams and sorbets — even the goofily named “death by raw chocolate” paté made creamy with avocado. But they were not a big hit with my tablemates.
You have to hand it to Negron, who creates Basil Park’s desserts with natural sweeteners like dates, bananas and brown rice syrup. It may not be the norm, but then again, not a lot here is.
At Basil Park, the Timo team is striving to set a new norm by serving nourishing foods that also taste great. And people are eating it up.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense. Follow @MiamiHeraldFood on Twitter.